Three Native Flowering Trees For Spring Color

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When it comes to spring beauty, look no further than three lovely native trees to color the season. These Eastern U.S. lovelies usually time their blooms perfectly to avoid getting zapped by unexpected cold temperatures. This makes them reliable for Indiana gardens. All of these trees are readily available at independent garden centers, nurseries and big-box stores.


Tight, reddish-pink, bud-like flowers cling to the branches of this tree in April. Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a fast-growing tree and grows to about 30 feet tall and wide.

Following the flowers come heart-shaped green leaves. Slender seedpods that resemble peas reveal the tree’s family relationship. Redbud’s blooms are soft yellow, and the tree does best in a sunny to partly sunny area where the soil is not wet.

There are several varieties that do well in the Indiana garden, including Lavender Twist, which is a weeping form; Forest Pansy, which has purple and green leaves; and Hearts of Gold or Rising Sun, with yellow leaves. There’s also a white flowering variety, Alba.

See more: How to Use Container Gardens to Bring Beauty to Small Spaces

Flowering Dogwood

White flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is an understory tree. In the wild, it grows in shafts of light and around the fringes of wooded areas. In the Indiana garden, it does fine in morning sun or in an area with filtered afternoon sun.

Dogwoods are fairly shallow-rooted, which means watering it during dry periods is important. The May-blooming dogwood is slow in its growth 30 feet tall and wide, so make sure to allow for its width as well as its height when planting.

For dogwoods, the show doesn’t stop with spring. Fall color arrives as tight clusters of red berries, loved by birds and squirrels, paired with showstopping glossy, red-wine leaves. Small, gray, dome-like buds stay on the branches all winter to swell and burst into white flowers in spring. There’s also are many white- and pink-flowering varieties available.

Sweetbay Magnolia

Sweetbay magnolia is the last of these three trees to bloom, holding its waxy, creamy white, fragrant flowers until late May to early June. Sweetbay magnolia (M. virginiana) will be about 10 feet wide and 35 feet tall at maturity but may be smaller in urban landscapes.

Whatever its size, this magnolia has a lovely, stately presence in the Indiana landscape. The glossy leaves are semievergreen, which provide multiple seasons of interest. The leaves remain on the tree until spring, except in severe winters. Also called the swamp magnolia, it tolerates moist to wet soil and full to part sun.

See more: Bring Butterflies to Your Garden

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is an award-winning garden communicator who blogs at

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